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  • CHAPTER 6

  • "Those strains that once did sweet in Zion glide; He wales a portion with judicious

  • care; And 'Let us worship God', he says, with solemn air."

  • --Burns

  • Heyward and his female companions witnessed this mysterious movement with secret

  • uneasiness; for, though the conduct of the white man had hitherto been above reproach,

  • his rude equipments, blunt address, and

  • strong antipathies, together with the character of his silent associates, were

  • all causes for exciting distrust in minds that had been so recently alarmed by Indian

  • treachery.

  • The stranger alone disregarded the passing incidents.

  • He seated himself on a projection of the rocks, whence he gave no other signs of

  • consciousness than by the struggles of his spirit, as manifested in frequent and heavy

  • sighs.

  • Smothered voices were next heard, as though men called to each other in the bowels of

  • the earth, when a sudden light flashed upon those without, and laid bare the much-

  • prized secret of the place.

  • At the further extremity of a narrow, deep cavern in the rock, whose length appeared

  • much extended by the perspective and the nature of the light by which it was seen,

  • was seated the scout, holding a blazing knot of pine.

  • The strong glare of the fire fell full upon his sturdy, weather-beaten countenance and

  • forest attire, lending an air of romantic wildness to the aspect of an individual,

  • who, seen by the sober light of day, would

  • have exhibited the peculiarities of a man remarkable for the strangeness of his

  • dress, the iron-like inflexibility of his frame, and the singular compound of quick,

  • vigilant sagacity, and of exquisite

  • simplicity, that by turns usurped the possession of his muscular features.

  • At a little distance in advance stood Uncas, his whole person thrown powerfully

  • into view.

  • The travelers anxiously regarded the upright, flexible figure of the young

  • Mohican, graceful and unrestrained in the attitudes and movements of nature.

  • Though his person was more than usually screened by a green and fringed hunting-

  • shirt, like that of the white man, there was no concealment to his dark, glancing,

  • fearless eye, alike terrible and calm; the

  • bold outline of his high, haughty features, pure in their native red; or to the

  • dignified elevation of his receding forehead, together with all the finest

  • proportions of a noble head, bared to the generous scalping tuft.

  • It was the first opportunity possessed by Duncan and his companions to view the

  • marked lineaments of either of their Indian attendants, and each individual of the

  • party felt relieved from a burden of doubt,

  • as the proud and determined, though wild expression of the features of the young

  • warrior forced itself on their notice.

  • They felt it might be a being partially benighted in the vale of ignorance, but it

  • could not be one who would willingly devote his rich natural gifts to the purposes of

  • wanton treachery.

  • The ingenuous Alice gazed at his free air and proud carriage, as she would have

  • looked upon some precious relic of the Grecian chisel, to which life had been

  • imparted by the intervention of a miracle;

  • while Heyward, though accustomed to see the perfection of form which abounds among the

  • uncorrupted natives, openly expressed his admiration at such an unblemished specimen

  • of the noblest proportions of man.

  • "I could sleep in peace," whispered Alice, in reply, "with such a fearless and

  • generous-looking youth for my sentinel.

  • Surely, Duncan, those cruel murders, those terrific scenes of torture, of which we

  • read and hear so much, are never acted in the presence of such as he!"

  • "This certainly is a rare and brilliant instance of those natural qualities in

  • which these peculiar people are said to excel," he answered.

  • "I agree with you, Alice, in thinking that such a front and eye were formed rather to

  • intimidate than to deceive; but let us not practice a deception upon ourselves, by

  • expecting any other exhibition of what we

  • esteem virtue than according to the fashion of the savage.

  • As bright examples of great qualities are but too uncommon among Christians, so are

  • they singular and solitary with the Indians; though, for the honor of our

  • common nature, neither are incapable of producing them.

  • Let us then hope that this Mohican may not disappoint our wishes, but prove what his

  • looks assert him to be, a brave and constant friend."

  • "Now Major Heyward speaks as Major Heyward should," said Cora; "who that looks at this

  • creature of nature, remembers the shade of his skin?"

  • A short and apparently an embarrassed silence succeeded this remark, which was

  • interrupted by the scout calling to them, aloud, to enter.

  • "This fire begins to show too bright a flame," he continued, as they complied,

  • "and might light the Mingoes to our undoing.

  • Uncas, drop the blanket, and show the knaves its dark side.

  • This is not such a supper as a major of the Royal Americans has a right to expect, but

  • I've known stout detachments of the corps glad to eat their venison raw, and without

  • a relish, too.

  • (FOOTNOTE: In vulgar parlance the condiments of a repast are called by the

  • American "a relish," substituting the thing for its effect.

  • These provincial terms are frequently put in the mouths of the speakers, according to

  • their several conditions in life.

  • Most of them are of local use, and others quite peculiar to the particular class of

  • men to which the character belongs.

  • In the present instance, the scout uses the word with immediate reference to the

  • "salt," with which his own party was so fortunate as to be provided.)

  • Here, you see, we have plenty of salt, and can make a quick broil.

  • There's fresh sassafras boughs for the ladies to sit on, which may not be as proud

  • as their my-hog-guinea chairs, but which sends up a sweeter flavor, than the skin of

  • any hog can do, be it of Guinea, or be it of any other land.

  • Come, friend, don't be mournful for the colt; 'twas an innocent thing, and had not

  • seen much hardship.

  • Its death will save the creature many a sore back and weary foot!"

  • Uncas did as the other had directed, and when the voice of Hawkeye ceased, the roar

  • of the cataract sounded like the rumbling of distant thunder.

  • "Are we quite safe in this cavern?" demanded Heyward.

  • "Is there no danger of surprise? A single armed man, at its entrance, would

  • hold us at his mercy."

  • A spectral-looking figure stalked from out of the darkness behind the scout, and

  • seizing a blazing brand, held it toward the further extremity of their place of

  • retreat.

  • Alice uttered a faint shriek, and even Cora rose to her feet, as this appalling object

  • moved into the light; but a single word from Heyward calmed them, with the

  • assurance it was only their attendant,

  • Chingachgook, who, lifting another blanket, discovered that the cavern had two outlets.

  • Then, holding the brand, he crossed a deep, narrow chasm in the rocks which ran at

  • right angles with the passage they were in, but which, unlike that, was open to the

  • heavens, and entered another cave,

  • answering to the description of the first, in every essential particular.

  • "Such old foxes as Chingachgook and myself are not often caught in a barrow with one

  • hole," said Hawkeye, laughing; "you can easily see the cunning of the place--the

  • rock is black limestone, which everybody

  • knows is soft; it makes no uncomfortable pillow, where brush and pine wood is

  • scarce; well, the fall was once a few yards below us, and I dare to say was, in its

  • time, as regular and as handsome a sheet of water as any along the Hudson.

  • But old age is a great injury to good looks, as these sweet young ladies have yet

  • to l'arn!

  • The place is sadly changed!

  • These rocks are full of cracks, and in some places they are softer than at othersome,

  • and the water has worked out deep hollows for itself, until it has fallen back, ay,

  • some hundred feet, breaking here and

  • wearing there, until the falls have neither shape nor consistency."

  • "In what part of them are we?" asked Heyward.

  • "Why, we are nigh the spot that Providence first placed them at, but where, it seems,

  • they were too rebellious to stay.

  • The rock proved softer on each side of us, and so they left the center of the river

  • bare and dry, first working out these two little holes for us to hide in."

  • "We are then on an island!"

  • "Ay! there are the falls on two sides of us, and the river above and below.

  • If you had daylight, it would be worth the trouble to step up on the height of this

  • rock, and look at the perversity of the water.

  • It falls by no rule at all; sometimes it leaps, sometimes it tumbles; there it

  • skips; here it shoots; in one place 'tis white as snow, and in another 'tis green as

  • grass; hereabouts, it pitches into deep

  • hollows, that rumble and crush the 'arth; and thereaways, it ripples and sings like a

  • brook, fashioning whirlpools and gullies in the old stone, as if 'twas no harder than

  • trodden clay.

  • The whole design of the river seems disconcerted.

  • First it runs smoothly, as if meaning to go down the descent as things were ordered;

  • then it angles about and faces the shores; nor are there places wanting where it looks

  • backward, as if unwilling to leave the wilderness, to mingle with the salt.

  • Ay, lady, the fine cobweb-looking cloth you wear at your throat is coarse, and like a

  • fishnet, to little spots I can show you, where the river fabricates all sorts of

  • images, as if having broke loose from order, it would try its hand at everything.

  • And yet what does it amount to!

  • After the water has been suffered so to have its will, for a time, like a

  • headstrong man, it is gathered together by the hand that made it, and a few rods below

  • you may see it all, flowing on steadily

  • toward the sea, as was foreordained from the first foundation of the 'arth!"

  • While his auditors received a cheering assurance of the security of their place of

  • concealment from this untutored description of Glenn's, (FOOTNOTE: Glenn's Falls are

  • on the Hudson, some forty or fifty miles

  • above the head of tide, or that place where the river becomes navigable for sloops.

  • The description of this picturesque and remarkable little cataract, as given by the

  • scout, is sufficiently correct, though the application of the water to uses of

  • civilized life has materially injured its beauties.

  • The rocky island and the two caverns are known to every traveler, since the former

  • sustains the pier of a bridge, which is now thrown across the river, immediately above

  • the fall.

  • In explanation of the taste of Hawkeye, it should be remembered that men always prize

  • that most which is least enjoyed.

  • Thus, in a new country, the woods and other objects, which in an old country would be

  • maintained at great cost, are got rid of, simply with a view of "improving" as it is

  • called.)

  • -they were much inclined to judge differently from Hawkeye, of its wild

  • beauties.

  • But they were not in a situation to suffer their thoughts to dwell on the charms of

  • natural objects; and, as the scout had not found it necessary to cease his culinary

  • labors while he spoke, unless to point out,

  • with a broken fork, the direction of some particularly obnoxious point in the

  • rebellious stream, they now suffered their attention to be drawn to the necessary

  • though more vulgar consideration of their supper.

  • The repast, which was greatly aided by the addition of a few delicacies that Heyward

  • had the precaution to bring with him when they left their horses, was exceedingly

  • refreshing to the weary party.

  • Uncas acted as attendant to the females, performing all the little offices within

  • his power, with a mixture of dignity and anxious grace, that served to amuse

  • Heyward, who well knew that it was an utter

  • innovation on the Indian customs, which forbid their warriors to descend to any

  • menial employment, especially in favor of their women.

  • As the rights of hospitality were, however, considered sacred among them, this little

  • departure from the dignity of manhood excited no audible comment.

  • Had there been one there sufficiently disengaged to become a close observer, he

  • might have fancied that the services of the young chief were not entirely impartial.

  • That while he tendered to Alice the gourd of sweet water, and the venison in a

  • trencher, neatly carved from the knot of the pepperidge, with sufficient courtesy,

  • in performing the same offices to her

  • sister, his dark eye lingered on her rich, speaking countenance.

  • Once or twice he was compelled to speak, to command her attention of those he served.

  • In such cases he made use of English, broken and imperfect, but sufficiently

  • intelligible, and which he rendered so mild and musical, by his deep, guttural voice,

  • that it never failed to cause both ladies to look up in admiration and astonishment.

  • In the course of these civilities, a few sentences were exchanged, that served to

  • establish the appearance of an amicable intercourse between the parties.

  • In the meanwhile, the gravity of Chingcachgook remained immovable.

  • He had seated himself more within the circle of light, where the frequent, uneasy

  • glances of his guests were better enabled to separate the natural expression of his

  • face from the artificial terrors of the war paint.

  • They found a strong resemblance between father and son, with the difference that

  • might be expected from age and hardships.

  • The fierceness of his countenance now seemed to slumber, and in its place was to

  • be seen the quiet, vacant composure which distinguishes an Indian warrior, when his

  • faculties are not required for any of the greater purposes of his existence.

  • It was, however, easy to be seen, by the occasional gleams that shot across his

  • swarthy visage, that it was only necessary to arouse his passions, in order to give

  • full effect to the terrific device which he had adopted to intimidate his enemies.

  • On the other hand, the quick, roving eye of the scout seldom rested.

  • He ate and drank with an appetite that no sense of danger could disturb, but his

  • vigilance seemed never to desert him.

  • Twenty times the gourd or the venison was suspended before his lips, while his head

  • was turned aside, as though he listened to some distant and distrusted sounds--a

  • movement that never failed to recall his

  • guests from regarding the novelties of their situation, to a recollection of the

  • alarming reasons that had driven them to seek it.

  • As these frequent pauses were never followed by any remark, the momentary

  • uneasiness they created quickly passed away, and for a time was forgotten.

  • "Come, friend," said Hawkeye, drawing out a keg from beneath a cover of leaves, toward

  • the close of the repast, and addressing the stranger who sat at his elbow, doing great

  • justice to his culinary skill, "try a

  • little spruce; 'twill wash away all thoughts of the colt, and quicken the life

  • in your bosom.

  • I drink to our better friendship, hoping that a little horse-flesh may leave no

  • heart-burnings atween us. How do you name yourself?"

  • "Gamut--David Gamut," returned the singing master, preparing to wash down his sorrows

  • in a powerful draught of the woodsman's high-flavored and well-laced compound.

  • "A very good name, and, I dare say, handed down from honest forefathers.

  • I'm an admirator of names, though the Christian fashions fall far below savage

  • customs in this particular.

  • The biggest coward I ever knew as called Lyon; and his wife, Patience, would scold

  • you out of hearing in less time than a hunted deer would run a rod.

  • With an Indian 'tis a matter of conscience; what he calls himself, he